Dean Kibbe’s UVA Health Leadership Institute Fireside Chat: A Leader’s Journey

July 9, 2024 by

Melina Kibbe, MD, Dean, UVA School of Medicine, James Carroll Flippin Professor of Medical Science, Chief Health Affairs Officer, UVA Health.

Melina Kibbe, MD, Dean, UVA School of Medicine, James Carroll Flippin Professor of Medical Science, Chief Health Affairs Officer, UVA Health

Last month Dean Kibbe visited the second cohort of the UVA Health Leadership Institute (HLI) for a Fireside Chat with Mike Valentine, MD, chair of Heart and Vascular Service Line and senior director of HLI. The day kicked off with the “leading teams” module of the HLI curriculum. 33 cohort members, representing all UVA Health entities and a wide range of professional backgrounds (nurses, physicians, administrators, staff, etc.), listened to Dean Kibbe’s journey to becoming the dean of the UVA School of Medicine and lessons she learned along the way.

Core Leadership Values

Dean Kibbe began by sharing the importance of trust, integrity, and transparency in her leadership style. She stressed the critical alignment between one’s internal values and how they are perceived externally, encouraging the cohort to consider both their intent and impact.

In managing teams, “having a good understanding of personalities you work with is critical,” Kibbe reflected. She described herself as a “huge believer in a transparent manner, setting expectations and holding people accountable,” recommending leaders delegate tasks based on individual strengths and values.

Role of Mentorship

Mentorship has played a crucial role in Dean Kibbe’s career. She continues to collect mentors, adapting to her evolving professional needs. Navigating a male-dominated specialty where only a small percentage of vascular surgeons were women, she initially had male mentors. As her career progressed, however, she was exposed to female mentors whose guidance significantly shaped her leadership style.

Dean Kibbe recommended reaching out to mentors organically: “When you see someone who has a career you aspire to or doing something you admire…verbalize your admiration and ask if it would be okay to call for advice.”

Early Leadership Challenges

“Every leader is going to make mistakes. It is also a quality of a leader to admit it and talk about it out loud,” Dean Kibbe noted. She recounted challenges in her career that taught her the importance of seeking input from various stakeholders and managing up. “When you talk about [each mistake] out loud,” she reflected, “other people learn from it; error is human.” Alongside transparency and vulnerability, she urged the cohort to create safe zones for their team members while recognizing power differentials that might exist.

In the end, Dean Kibbe emphasized staying true to one’s values, paying it forward, and supporting one another along the way. She suggested aspiring leaders tackle hard issues: “People want the doers. The best way to get yourself into leadership is to tackle something you know is a problem and leadership will notice.” Her Fireside Chat offered valuable lessons on integrity, mentorship, and navigating complex leadership scenarios.

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